Matthew Peca

Tonight on NBCSN: Doubleheader action featuring No. 1 Quinnipiac and No. 6 North Dakota

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Tonight’s doubleheader features a great, yet not well known, ECAC rivalry and thriller of a match-up in the WCHA.

No. 1 Quinnipiac Bobcats (22-4-4) vs. No. 13 Yale Bulldogs (13-9-3) – 7:30 p.m. ET

Quinnipiac may have taken the college hockey world by storm this season but they head into tonight’s game looking to keep their steamship of a season rolling right along. They’re the top team in the country and they’ve already locked up the ECAC’s regular season title. Coach Rand Pecknold’s team is a beast that can score plenty and stymie you defensively. To add to their Connecticut rivalry, they’ve already whooped on Yale in their barn this season.

Yale, meanwhile, wants to make sure they don’t drift too far out of second place. After getting swept by Union and suddenly scorching hot Rensselaer last weekend, the Bulldogs are tied for fifth with Dartmouth in the league. Paying back the Bobcats for their defeat earlier this season would help get them back on track.

NHL prospects to watch

Quinnipiac: Matthew Peca (SO – F- Tampa Bay – pictured), Jordan Samuels-Thomas (SR – F – Winnipeg), Kellen Jones (JR – F – EDM). Undrafted stars: Jeremy Langlois (SR – F; team points leader with 26), Eric Hartzell (SR – G; 1.46 GAA .935 SV%)

Yale:  Kenny Agostino (F – JR – Pittsburgh), Gus Young (D – JR – Colorado), Rob O’Gara (D – FR – Boston), Matthew Beattie (F – FR – Vancouver). Undrafted stars: Andrew Miller (SR – F; tied for team lead in goals with 12, 2nd in points), Antoine Laganiere (SR – F; also tied with Miller and Agostino in goals, third on team in points), Jeff Malcolm (SR – G; 2.48 GAA .918 SV%)

No. 10 Denver Pioneers (15-9-5) vs. No. 6 University of North Dakota (16-8-6) – 10:05 p.m. ET

source:  The race in the WCHA for the top spot is a tight one and both North Dakota and Denver are in striking distance. UND sits just three points back of St. Cloud State but they’re in fifth place. Meanwhile, DU is six points back in seventh place. It’s fitting that the final season of this iteration of the WCHA has turned into a wild one.

North Dakota heads into this game unbeaten in their last five games (3-0-2) and winners of three in a row. Denver, on the other hand, comes in grumpy after tying and losing to rival Colorado College last weekend and falling a bit further back in the conference race. With the season winding down and the boatload of talent on the ice between these teams, expect both to come out all guns blazing.

NHL prospects to watch

Denver: The Pioneers roll with seven NHL prospects highlighted by the team’s leading scorer, junior forward Nick Shore (Los Angeles). Sophomore defenseman Joey LaLeggia (Edmonton) is their top point-getter along the blue line. Others to watch: Zac Larraza (SO – F – Phoenix), Scott Mayfield (SO – D – NY Islanders), Paul Phillips (SR – D – Chicago), Josiah Didier (SO – D – Montreal), Sam Brittain (JR – G – Florida)

North Dakota:  They have 14 NHL-drafted players here. The best of the bunch are their top-four scorers in seniors Corban Knight (Florida) Danny Kristo (Montreal -pictured), freshman Rocco Grimaldi (Florida) and sophomore Mark MacMillan (Montreal). Freshman goalie Zane Gothberg (Boston) has impressed of late.

(Photos: ECAC Hockey, North Dakota sports)

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.